Road salt in short supply to fight Ohio's winter ravages

Staff report


The Ohio Department of Transportation is grappling with the effects of harsh winter weather, among them being the depletion of the state’s road-salt supply.

Over the past several days, salt deliveries have been made statewide. Last week, ODOT District 11, which oversees operations in Columbiana, Tuscarawas, Holmes, Belmont, Carroll, Harrison and Jefferson counties, reported salt usage at 55,719 tons since November, up from the district’s average of 47,063 tons used during the winter.

“Winter isn’t nearly over, but we have ordered enough salt to reach 50 percent capacity across District 11, which should keep us comfortable,” said Becky Giauque, communications spokeswoman for District 11.

The district has spent $2.7 million so far trying to keep up with the salt supply this winter.

Brent Kovacs, a public information officer for the Mahoning County portion of ODOT, described the salt situation in District 4 as an ongoing process, stating the county is regularly ordering salt.

District 4 includes Mahoning, Trumbull, Portage, Ashtabula, Stark and Summit counties.

“Right now, we have 8,400 tons of salt, It’s anyone’s guess whether we will have enough for the rest of the winter,” Kovacs said.

Lawrence Wilson, road superintendent of Boardman Township, said he is not optimistic about the current road-salt situation. “Boardman Township is in the same boat as everyone else. We don’t have a lot of salt. We’ve made a lot of orders, but we have no idea of when we might get those.”

Wilson said the shortage stems partially from issues mining the salt, but that the larger issue is an unexpected long winter in Ohio.

“We haven’t had a winter that started in November for the past several years. We were out on the roads by the end of November. The state wasn’t prepared for a winter like this,” Wilson said.

Mahoning County Engineer Patrick Ginnetti echoed Wilson’s concern.

“The salt supply in Mahoning isn’t holding up too well. We have ordered salt, but we don’t know when we’ll get it. It’s a problem with our distributor, and we’re not sure what is going on, but salt deliveries have been late all year,” Ginnetti said.

Throughout the season, Mahoning County has lent out portions of the salt supply to surrounding areas and, in turn, has borrowed salt for the county from ODOT, Ginnetti said. ODOT takes priority when salt is being delivered, and all other political subdivisions receive salt depending on the schedule of the deliveries for ODOT, he added.

Some road department officials, however, are more optimistic about the salt situation.

Thomas Sakmar, a supervisor at the Youngstown Street Department, ordered 8,000 tons of salt late last week, a shipment that should come this week.

Throughout this winter, the street department has regularly run street-cleaning shifts on a 24/7 basis, leading to increased salt usage and mechanical issues.

Sakmar said, “Ordering salt — it’s just something you have to do to keep the roads clear. The state budget is usually enough to cover everything. If I need more, I’m sure they’ll let me order more. They’ll do whatever they have to do to keep the roads clear.”

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation says it has supplied about 6,000 tons of road salt to municipalities that have run short this winter.

The highway department said its salt stock stood at about 382,000 tons, with some 145,000 tons still to be delivered.

In an average winter, PennDOT goes through about 800,000 tons, but this year’s series of storms has the department going through road salt more quickly than usual.

So far this season it’s lent salt to Pittsburgh, Philadelphia, New Castle and the suburban Philadelphia community of Upper Gwynedd Township.

PennDOT starts each winter with more than 500,000 tons on hand.

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